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Westbrook thankful for family after beating Robertson's record originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
With 8:30 remaining in the fourth quarter on Monday night, Russell Westbrook stepped into the paint and jumped up to grab a missed fadeaway by Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari. He arrived on the ground holding 47 years of NBA history in his hands.
With that rebound, his 10th of the night, Westbrook completed his 182nd career triple-double, passing the illustrious Oscar Robertson on the all-time list. Robertson, now 82, recorded his final triple-double all the way back in 1974.
Watching Westbrook's career closely, you wouldn't have seen this moment coming well into his time as an NBA player. Through his first six NBA seasons, he had only eight triple-doubles in total. But soon after, Westbrook became a triple-doubles machine. He had 11 in 2015-16, then 42 in 2016-17 to break Robertson's single-season record.
Four seasons of averaging a triple-double later and Westbrook is now the undisputed triple-doubles king. He owns the single season record, plus the all-time records for triple-doubles in the regular season alone and including the playoffs.
While triple-doubles were long synonymous with Robertson, Westbrook is now on top.
"It’s a blessing, man. You put so much into the game, you put so much time, you sacrifice so much to the game," Westbrook said.
"To be able to be mentioned with guys like Oscar and Magic [Johnson] and Jason Kidd and those guys, it’s something that I would have never dreamt about as a young kid growing up in L.A. I’m truly grateful for moments like this. Normally, I don’t like to pat myself on the back, but tonight I will just because I’m so grateful to the ones before me."
Westbrook thanked a long list of people in his postgame press conference, including members of his family; his parents, his brother, his wife and his children. All of them, he says, have played an important part of the journey that led him here. They made sacrifices to allow him to do what is necessary to become an all-time great basketball player.
The Wizards put together a tribute video for Westbrook's accomplishment that included comments from Robertson, Johnson and Kidd, as well as Westbrook's closest family members. Of all the people who congratulated him, it was his mother who stood out the most.
"That was pretty cool. I was smiling from ear-to-ear, especially seeing my mom. Rarely do y’all get my mom to say anything and to see her go and talk, I was pretty excited about my family and my kids, my mom and my dad," he said.
Westbrook has been asked about his triple-doubles many times over the years and especially in recent weeks as he approached the all-time record. Each time, he has expressed his gratitude towards Robertson, whom he's interacted with a few times, including in 2017 at a ceremony in Oklahoma City, after Westbrook captured the single-season mark.
Westbrook is most impressed with how Robertson overcame growing up during segregation and the height of the civil rights movement to carve out a legendary career as a professional athlete.
"I’m super grateful, especially for Oscar, because he paved the way for guys like myself. He endured different things back in the time when he was playing and was able to do that and stay effective on the floor... I just want to thank him because without him and the things he did for the game, I probably wouldn’t be doing some of the things I’m able to do now," Westbrook said.
One of the other greats who congratulated Westbrook on Monday is Kidd, who is fourth on the all-time list with 107 triple-doubles. He himself once said he did not believe Robertson's record would ever be broken.
That sentiment in general seems to have motivated Westbrook, who said it is his goal to prove people wrong.
"Every night I try to do things that people say can’t be done," he said.
All of it, though, leads to a natural question and that is who will be next? Robertson had the record and then roughly half-a-century later, it is now Westbrook's. And he can keep going, still only 32 and clearly in his prime.
So, will the new record, whatever it ends up being, be broken?
"I guess we will see in another 50 years or so. I don’t know," Westbrook said.